« PreviousContinue »
double accomplishment of any of the prophecies. Without entering into a discussion of this subject, or undertaking a formal vindication of the opinion. I espouse, I would simply observe, that I can perceive in it no inconsistency, nothing which tends to render uncertain the interpretation of Scripture; and there are certainly many facts, aud much evidence, to support it.
If we look back to the period pf the preliminary accomplishment of this prophecy in the first age of Christianity, and mark the state of the world, and the operations of diyine providence, during that period, in reference; to the event foretold in the text, we may learn můch concerning the course which we may expect that Gon; in his providence will parsue, in bringing about its 'ultimate and complete fulfilment. Like causes ever produce like effects. God never errs in the choice of the best means to effect his purposes. His plans, and his means of executing them, unlike human plans and means, admit of no improvement. What has been, in his operations to effect certain of his purposes, will, in like circumstances, be again. On this ground we may safely reason from the past, concerning the future, since the object to be accomplished, in both cases, if we judge correctly, is precisely the same. What then was the state of the world, and what events and operations of divine providence, distinguished the times, when the prophecy in the text received its preliminary, and incomplete fulfilment? So far as the state of the world, and events and operations of divine providence in the present age, are analagous to those of the first age of Christianity, and the first general propagation of the Gospel, so far shall we be able to decide, whether or not we are soon to
his Rather, in the full-sense of the wordsy" the heath en for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for bois possession?! . ... : ? 333
“ God; who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers!' the ancient Jews, ; " by the prophet's, 'hätt- in these last days-spokeni untà ús by his 300;" 15 to perform the mercy promised to the fathers, and to remember. his holy covenant.?? These “last days;” as the phrase ist here used, include the whole périod of time, from the coming of our Savi iour, to the end of the world. It was in the reign of the Roman Emperor, Augustus that these last days commenced. Then it was that this great Ambassador from God to man, his own beloved Son, made his appearance on eartli, for the purpose of procuřing and proclaiming salvation, first to the Jews; in performance of the mercy promised to their fathers, showing them that God's holy covenant with them was re: membered; and then to the Gentiles, in fulfilment of the promise in our text. To effect all this, a mighty revolution in the state of the world was necessary: Such a revolution was actually effected by the preaching of the Gospel by the Apostles and their fellow laborers.s to all nations,” “every where,” and “to every creature,” according to these universal terms; expressed in their commission Foreseeing this revo. lution in his perfect plan, God, in his infinite wisdom, had prepared every thing requisite to its accomplish; ment. The means which he provided were admirably suited to his purpose, while yet no mar, not even the actors themselves, knew their ultimate design or tendency.
t. The world, with the exception of small pors tions of it, were brought to the use of, but two languages, the Greek and the Latin, thus wonderfully fas cilitating the communication of the holy truths of the Gospel, which a great diversity of languages must have rendered extremely difficult. We are aware that the Apostles, by special gift of the Holy Ghost, could speak all 'lariguages; and, of course, diversity of tongues would be no hindrance to their preaching ; yet we have no reason to suppose, that this miraculous gift was bestowed on the numerous body of preachers and missionaries, who must have been employed to assist the Apostles in accomplishing the great work of con; verting the world, and by them, of course, this facilis ty would be needed and feltes ...: 03.
2. Nearly the whole world was embraced, at this time, under the Roman Empire; and it is easy to per: ceive from this fact, what must have been the comparative advantages enjoyed for spreading the knowledge of the Gospel ainong the nations in this state, over those which would have been enjoyed, had these na tions remained divided, as they had been, under many diferent governments. Add to this, that the Roman Empire had now reached the height of its literary eminence, power, and splendor ; all its parts were united under one constitution, and one head. The whole world too was in peace; the temple of Janus was shut; and thus a way was opened for free and uninterrupted intercourse with every part of the empire, and of the world. These circumstances were all, peculiar, ly favourable to the subjection of the world to the dominion of CHRIST.
1.3. The dispersion of the Jews extensively among many nations, which took place at this eventsul period. and- who carried with them some knowledge of the true God, was one great meán employed, in divine providence, for the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith of the Gospel. A circumstance in their history, also, which contributed to this event, was, that the minds of the Jews every where, and of many of the heathen also, at this time, were awakened to - lively expectation of the coming of the Messiah. The period of his expected appearance, according to their prophecies, was now arrived, No sooner, therefore, was his birth announced by the wise men of the East, than the fame of it was spread wherever the Jews, their proselytes, or others acquainted with the prophecies of the Old Testament, resided.
These proselytes of the Gale, as they were styled, it is pertinent here to observe, had become numerous about the time of the coming of our Saviour, Though they were not Jews, they had ceased to be heathen. They had renounced idolatry; were present every Sabbath at the reading of Moses and the prophets; and had a distinct place allotted them in the synagogues. Among these proselytes, we are told, were “devout men, who feared God.” Cornelius was of this number. It was not difficult for men in this situation, to renounce paganism. They had, indeed, already done it. They were not embarrassed by Judaism, having never adopted it as their religion. There existed, therefore, no obstacle to their embracing Christianity. Of these proselytes among the Gentiles, thus prepared, was the great body of the first Christians.
24. The translation of the Scriptures into the Greek language, in which they were extensively, read by mtelligent heathen, was another important préparatiön in providence for the spread of the Gospel, and the preliminary accomplishment of the prophecy in
i. 51 only add, in this connection, that just before the Birth of CHRIST, in the Augustan age of the world, Learning and philosophy had spread their influence, in a greater or less degree, to a very considerable extent among the nations, had enlarged, refined, and thus prepared the minds of men, in an importaňt sense, to investigaté, to understand, and to embrace the sublime truths of the Gospel The devotees of idolatry, every where, and in a manner, very remarkable, had become entirely dissatisfied with their religion; had been brought to treat with contempt, to reject, and destroy their idol gods; their priests had lost their reputation and influence; their temples were first deserted, then demolished; the oracles of their demons' were silenced'; and all the world seemed prepared, and were sighing for a change.*
With this preparation for their work, the Apostles, in pursuance
of their commission, in less than forty years
after the ascension of Christ, had successfully extended their labors nearly through the whole world, converting its inhabitants every where to the faith of the Gospel, thus fulfilling the prediction of our Lord, « The Gospel of this kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end, (i. e. the end of the Jewish state,) come.”
* See Jurieu's Preface to the Accomplishment of Prophecies; and Millar's Hist. of the Propagation of the Gospel.